Lessons one can learn about leadership or styles of management are in wide availability within the modern media. The different ways in which organizations are now led have been subjects to multiple movies or TV series that depict main characters dealing with important business issues. The Godfather (1972) is among the classics of filmmaking; however, its value goes beyond the plot and the cinematography.
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The movie has some important lessons about leadership and morals about life in general. Whether one is the head of a hugely successful company or leads a team working on a start-up, the Corleone family will teach both managers and leaders the different styles that they can emulate in order to be successful. The family is an example of how to do business and deliver results efficiently.
Positive Lessons from Don Corleone
One of the first lessons of the Corleone Family is associated with the idea that reaching success is a collaborative effort of everyone involved. In management, collaboration refers to the process of exchanging knowledge and experiences between team members. Effective leaders, as shown in the movie, allow the members of the team to combine their individual strengths with the advantages that the group as a whole has.
Moreover, managers make it possible to collectively deal with the weaknesses of the group and thus subsequently improve the productivity and retention of an entire organization. Similar to an organization in which each team member has strengths that are detrimental to corporate success, the Corleone Family is a combination of personas that complemented one another, although clashed sometimes, to reach the top of the business sphere. Thus, modern corporations can learn a lot from the leadership styles and lessons put forth in The Godfather.
The character of Don Vito Corleone is the epitome of both wisdom and wisdom and years of experience. While there are numerous people with experience, the real value is usually accomplished when a person can capitalize on the extensive knowledge and skills in order to help others, less experienced, to access guidance and have appropriate training for future generations. Thus, Don Vito is a representative of senior leadership, whose critical measure of success is associated with the removal of all obstacles over the years of ‘being on the job.’ The experience of Don Vito in the family is considered the source of ‘tribal’ family knowledge that can be used extensively to achieve family goals.
The example of Don Vito shows that transactional leadership can be a method for reaching success. This style of leadership is concerned with the process of exchange, for example, money for work or one favor to another. Throughout the movie, transactional leadership comes heavily into play. The famous line that Don Vito says, “I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse,” shows that everything in life has its price or a point of pressure that can be used as a business advantage. Fair leaders thus ensure that every transaction is carried out fairly in order to preserve positive relations between parties.
Strategic focus is another critical characteristic of Don Vito Corleone’s style of leadership. Significant sections of the movie show the strategy that Don and his trusty advisors implement for managing family matters, deal with competition, as well as overcome setbacks. The leader of the family always thinks ahead, has backup plans in case if strategies do not work out, and is resilient. The strategy of the Godfather is also concerned with developing the most effective leadership capacities in other people. In the movie, this strategy is reflected in the evolution of Michael Corleone from a family outsider to the eventual leader of the group.
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Don Corleone managed to develop leadership qualities in his son, who learned how to take charge, as seen in the scene at the hospital when Michael took the key stance in safeguarding his father from assassins. Relational leadership also comes into play in the exploration of Corleone’s approach. He capitalized on the power of familial relationships that have made the mafia an effective organization, which, notably, lacked ethics. The use of the term ‘godfather’ in the movie shows that a person can have a significant leadership impact on a family despite not having any blood ties. Being a good leader, Don Corleone realized that he had to work hard in order to develop lasting and strong relationships with people whose skills were necessary to reach key organizational goals.
The Negative Side
While Don Corleone has several valuable lessons for good leadership, several ethical problems should be mentioned. As mentioned by Warner and Riggio (2012), the ethical issues depicted in The Godfather can be traced to the background of Italian-American history characterized by the patterns of violating moral standards to reach success. In the movie, Don Corleone is a very effective leader; however, it does not mean that his acts are morally right.
Ethical leaders aim to develop an environment with a minimum confrontation of parties. In The Godfather, the Corleone family prospers when it exploits other people and leaves a path of victims on their way. This quality of Don Corleone’s leadership is what makes his style of reaching success bad since good leaders will never sacrifice other people for personal sake.
Another negative point to mention in regards to the unethical qualities of Don Corleone as a leader is associated with corruption by power. This theme is one of the clearest in The Godfather and later depicted in the movie’s sequel. It refers to the process by which a law-abiding and hard-working Vito acquires both monetary and reputational power. Through intimidation and the subsequent murder, he becomes the key figure in a mafia family.
What is essential to understand is that Don Corleone diminished the influence of his criminal activity, justifying it as business or the fact that all authorities are corrupt. An important quote regarding this issue was at the very beginning of the film when Don noted the following: “by chance if an honest man such as yourself should make enemies, then they would become my enemies. And then they would fear you” (as cited in Weinstein, 2015, para. 1). Therefore, Don Corleone shows his authority through intimidation and the exercises of power by force. This quality makes the leadership of Don Vito unethical since morally good leaders are the ones who can fight the temptations of power and avoid the use of force at any cost.
Despite the success that Don Corleone attained over the course of being a mafia leader, the lessons from real-life point to the opposite of what the character did. As mentioned in the Fortune article by Weinstein (2015), a survey involving around 2,400 managers showed that employees performed better at their jobs when they were motivated by benefits rather than threatened with lost opportunities. Therefore, leadership is based on care, servant leadership, with the satisfied workforce being supported by honorable behaviors (Allen et al., 2016)… Several recommendations can be made based on the findings associated with Don Corleone’s positive and negative aspects of leadership.
First, it is essential to empower the team to be the most effective and proactive in solving problems that arise along the way. This empowerment can come from a variety of leadership styles as well as through building connections with followers. The Godfather was highly effective in building such connections and established a framework for the collaborative work of the family. Second, positive leaders should accentuate the good things in the process in order to facilitate discipline and engagement.
Don Corleone, on the other hand, led with fear. While there is a place for discipline in any organization, it is essential to acknowledge when workers are doing their job right, with praise and positive reinforcement being essential aspects of leadership.
Finally, good leaders should refuse to lead their organization by fear and intimidation, as shown in the example of Don Vito Corleone. The engagement in unethical behaviors will inevitably lead to adverse consequences for businesses, which is why it is recommended to take care and not fear as the foundation of a leadership style. Overall, a figure of the Godfather in the movie teaches the audience an important lesson. While a leader can be effective and facilitate collaboration to reach the established goals, intimidation and violence should never be the vehicles used for that purpose.
Allen, G. P., Moore, W. M., Moser, L. R., Neill, K. K., Sambamoorthi, U., & Bell, H. S. (2016). The role of servant leadership and transformational leadership in academic pharmacy. American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, 80(7), 113.
Warner, N., & Riggio, R. (2012). Italian-American leadership in Hollywood films: Images and realities. Leadership, 8(3), 211-227.
Weinstein, B. (2015). Why you shouldn’t lead like Don Corleone. Fortune. Web.